It was a great sleep after a tiring first day of the trip. We awoke later than expected, but still managed to keep up with the itinerary!
Breakfast was to be at Hong Kong island, so we made our way harbour-ward to the ferry pier, to take what was deemed the most picturesque ride (and cheapest) in the world – the Star Ferry!
This is Spotty, and he will be your tour guide!
Getting on the Star Ferry was unbelievably easy (and cheap) with the Octopus card. One tap and we were in – just like that! We waited for the gates to open, and walked towards the upper deck. Believe it or not, up to that point, I had never been on the upper deck before!
Soon enough, the ferry was on its way, and we were on our way to Hong Kong island! We realised we sat on the wrong side facing back to Kowloon (more picturesque was the side facing Central’s iconic skyscrapers) but no matter, we would be taking the Star Ferry another 6 times! Disembarking from the ferry, we walked along the overhead bridges until Des Voeux Road Central, then made a right turn to the start of the longest escalator system in the world – the Mid-levels Escalators!
We were right on time to catch the direction change (from downwards to upwards) at 10am, but it took a gruelling wait of about 20 minutes before the escalator right at the start made the switch. Sadly, we only took two sections of the vast escalator system before we got off at Lyndhurst Terrace, where Lan Fong Yuen was at!
Lan Fong Yuen was a cha chaan teng, literally translated to tea restaurant, where locals go to have their meals. Their claim to fame was milk tea made with the help of silk-stockings, a process they invented. It was not the best (the award goes to Star Cafe’s), but it was definitely the first!
We also ordered their pork chop buns and milk buns, and they turned out to be decent. Not impressive, but not bad either. It was at Lan Fong Yuen where we got our first taste of cha chaan teng culture – crammed seats, less-than-welcoming servers and swift turnovers. One can always expect their food to arrive in 5 minutes and under.
Post-breakfast, we popped over to the other side of Lyndhurst Terrace, where Tai Cheong Bakery was located. Without hesitation, we got two of their well-known egg tarts to try (actually, we’ve tried it already since they recently entered Singapore’s market, but those baked in Hong Kong ought to taste better, no?) Alas, we did not eat it on the spot, due to being too full from breakfast.
Following that, we strolled down antique-laden Hollywood Road to Man Mo Temple, passing by a primary school on the way. Beside Man Mo was the famous Ladder Street, as pointed out by Clara’s mom. I would probably have missed it myself, given that I never was such a fan of Hong Kong dramas. We snapped a few photos on the steps, then moved on to the temple itself, which was filled with incense smoke diffusing from the numerous incense coils dangling from the ceiling, lending the place an unusual sense of tranquility. It was interesting observing the locals making their prayers, and Clara’s mom went ahead too. The temple was quite generous in having few restrictions for visitors, as long as the devotees retained their peace.
Making our way back down Hollywood Road to the Police Married Quarters (PMQ), we spotted some intricate tree root formations trapped in concrete walls. Not something we get to see in Singapore often! We ate the Tai Cheong egg tarts in the garden of the PMQ. Unfortunately, they were a little soggy from being carried around, but their signature crisp crusts were still enjoyable. As I summed it up in one word, “nice!”
The PMQ, as its name suggests, used to be barracks housing married police officers. It recently underwent a makeover to become a hipster hub, much in the same vein as Ssamziegil in Seoul, South Korea. The twin blocks, called Hollywood and Stanton after the streets they overlooked, housed specialty shops in small numbered rooms that reminded me of classrooms of old. Nearer to the top floors were design studios and a rooftop garden. We spent quite a bit of time zig-zagging up and down the blocks, and there were Augmented Reality photo spots offering insight into the olden days, when children of the police officers actually used to play in the corridors. In fact, we downloaded the app to complete the experience, and it left us a little more knowledgeable about the place, and thoroughly entertained as well.
We were told the site used to house a prominent school that Sun Yat-sen used to attend. There were stairs leading down to the basement, where the foundation stones of the building were on display. It was commendable how fine a balance they struck between pushing for cutting-edge modernity and preserving memories of the past; not many places pull it off successfully!
Having taken the escalators upslope, we found ourselves now heading downslope towards the main road, where we were planning to take the ding ding – the tram! We passed by many stalls along the way, and Clara’s mom bought some dried fruits for her sore throat. Our next destination was Wan Chai!